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Cuba19 September 2006

Young independent journalist freed after being held for 48 hours

Reporters Without Borders welcomed the release of independent journalist Ahmed Rodríguez Albacia on 17 September, two days after his arrest by state security officials. “We will nonetheless continue to monitor this case closely as the authorities ordered Rodríguez to stop working as a journalist,” the organisation added.

18.09.06 - State security agents arrest 21-year-old independent journalist in Havana

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the detention of Ahmed Rodríguez Albacia, 21, a member of the independent news agency Jóvenes sin Censura, who was arrested by state security agents without any grounds in Havana on 15 September.

“Rodríguez’s detention raises the possibility of new arrests without trial like those of Oscar Mario González Pérez and Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez in July 2005 and Armando Betancourt in May 2006,” the press freedom organisation said. “Rodríguez and his family have been the target of constant harassment in recent weeks and we call for his immediate release.”

Reporters Without Borders also pointed out that Cuba took over the rotating presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement at the end of its six-day summit in Havana on 16 September and as such undertook to ensure respect for human rights and civil liberties in member countries.

Rodríguez was arrested when he went of his own volition to the police station on Dragones street in central Havana, where he lives. The arrest was made by two officials from the Directorate for State Security (the political police) who had followed him there. His mother, Margarita Albacia, said the head of the police refused to give her any explanation or let her see him, simply saying he was being questioned and would be back home in a few days.

On the morning before his arrest, Rodríguez had reported to the Cuban Human Rights Federation (FCDH) that members of the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution and the state security’s Rapid Response Brigades had surrounded his house and had threatened to “smash the heads” of him and his mother.

Rodríguez and his family were the target of a similar operation organised by state security, the CDR, the Federation of Cuban Women and the Communist Party of Cuba on 4 August, when a crowd of about 60 people blocked the entrance to their home and warned that “counter-revolutionary” meetings would no longer be tolerated there. Rodríguez enraged the crowd by shouting, “Long live human rights!”

Jóvenes sin Censura has been the target of constant harassment since its creation by a group of young journalists in September 2005. Two state security officials ordered the head of the agency, Liannis Meriño Aguilera, 21, to put a stop to her activities on 29 December in the eastern city of Holguín.

The regime has not let up pressure on the independent press and foreign journalists ever since President Fidel Castro’s hospitalisation and the transfer of power to his brother Raúl on 31 July. Some journalists from Non-Aligned Movement member countries were refused visas to come and cover the Havana summit.

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